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Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

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In my opinion, chocolate desserts are fabulous any time of year. But there’s something about cold, sub-zero temperatures that make you want to cozy up with loads of warm cocoa treats. In the spirit of the current NYC blizzard, I wanted to share this fantastic 5-minute brownie recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Not only is this recipe quick and easy, these brownies have a fantastic texture that make them picture perfect.

They will turn out just fine with standard cocoa, but the higher the quality of cocoa you use, the better they will be. I used a beautifully dark Valrhona cocoa powder for this batch and threw in some peanut butter chips. Voila!


Best Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, via Smitten Kitchen
Makes approximately 16 brownies

Ingredients
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams, though some brands may weigh more) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (75 grams) of nuts, chocolate chips, or other ingredient of choice

Procedure
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in-between, until the butter is melted and all ingredients are warm and combined (approximately 2 minutes). The mixture will be gritty and should be warm (if hot, set aside for 5 minutes).

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts or chocolate, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until set and a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, approximately 35 minutes . Let cool completely on a rack.

For clean and easy cutting, freeze the brownie pan, remove and cut while frozen. Let come to room temperature before enjoying.

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Sour cream-chocolate cake

Coming home to the arrival of a new cookbook is one of the best feelings. The crisp new pages, gorgeous photos, baking tips and tidbits – I can’t wait to jump right in.

Through Smitten Kitchen, I recently discovered Sky High, a book dedicated to modern American layer cakes. This book is loaded with simple and interesting triple layer recipes. I was immediately drawn to the recipe for a Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Peanut Butter Chocolate Glaze. This is a great oil-based chocolate cake recipe and the addition of sour cream makes the cake super moist. The peanut butter frosting is phenomenal and the chocolate glaze gives this cake a stunning finish.

I happen to have three 8-inch cake pans (which are required for all of the recipes in this cookbook). However, if you only have two pans, you can put 2/3 of the batter in one pan, and 1/3 of the batter in the second pan. The pan with double the amount of batter will need to bake longer (approximately 45-55 minutes) and once cooled, can be sliced in half with a serrated knife to form two layers.

Decorate the top of the cake however you like or leave it the way it is. The chocolate glaze will speak for itself. I candied some roasted peanuts and used them on top of the cake.


Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake, serves 12 to 16

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

To make the cakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper.  Carefully butter and flour the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine them (or use the whisk attachment in a stand mixer). Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the three prepared cake pans. Bake the cakes for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks. Let cool completely. If you can, I would recommend freezing (or refrigerating) these cakes before assembling by wrapping the layers very well in plastic. The hard, frozen layers will be a lot easier to work with during assembly as these cakes are a bit crumbly.

To assemble the cake
Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top. Use a small amount of the remaining frosting to create a crumb coat which will lock in any stray crumbs so they don’t show through your frosting. Chill the cake for 15-30 minutes, then frost the cake completely with the remaining Peanut Butter Frosting. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes.

To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely.

Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top as desired.


Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use all natural peanut butter)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.


Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

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Chocolate heaven cookies

As promised, here is an easy and delicious recipe for a chocolate cookie recipe we made in culinary school.  During my first Unit, Tarts & Cookies, we experimented with a lot of different cookie techniques.  This “drop” cookie was my favorite, not because it was the easiest, but because it was so chocolatey.

This cookie is easy and quick to put together yet tastes rich and decadent.  It’s texture is somewhat similar to a flour-less chocolate cookie, although these do require a small amount of flour.

It’s perfect for impressing friends and family and is a great start to fall, although, I love chocolate any time of year!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Heaven Cookies

Ingredients
½ lb chocolate, chopped
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 oz butter
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp coffee extract (or coffee)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 oz all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans (walnuts, hazelnuts, or any other nut you love)

Instructions
Combine the chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter and melt in a double boiler (bain-marie!).  Set aside.

Whip the eggs, sugar, coffee extract, vanilla extract and salt together until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes for this batter.

Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Then add the flour, chocolate chips and pecans and fold in until just combined.  The batter will look loose, like cake batter.

Drop small amounts of batter 2 inches apart on a parchment lined sheet pan.  The cookies will expand a little, but not much.

Bake at 350 for 10-14 minutes, or until desired doneness.

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chocolate crepe cake

I recently realized that the only time I make pastry crème is for Jocelin’s birthday. As many of you know, my sister Jocelin typically demands unusual or obscure European birthday treats, such as last year’s Swedish Princess Cake, which was a big hit for the dirty thirty.

This year, I presented Jocelin and Eddie, who share a dual birthday celebration, with several ideas and they chose a Crepe Cake.

Crepe Cake, or Gateau de Crepes, is a traditionally a towering pile of crepes separated by thin layers of pastry cream. Since Jocelin loves fruit and crème and Eddie is a chocoholic, I created the below recipe that combines Francois Payard’s fluffy chocolate crepes with a refreshing orange pastry crème and then smothers the whole cake in ganache.

For those of you that have never made a crepe, it’s easy. They do take a bit of time (3 minutes per crepe) and require you to stay focused on the task at hand, but are well worth the effort.

The crepe recipe below will yield nearly double the amount of crepes you’ll need for the cake, but I recommend making the full batch and filling leftover crepes with fruit and Nutella for breakfast or dessert.

Chocolate Crepe Cake with Orange Crème
Makes one, 8 inch cake

Chocolate Crepes

Ingredients:
2 cups, plus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
8 large eggs
2 cups, plus 1 tbsp whole milk
grated zest of two oranges
10 tbsps browned butter (recipe below)
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and orange zest.  Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  Then whisk in the browned butter, then the cream, until incorporated.  Strain the batter to remove any lumps and whisk it until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, or up to overnight.

chilled chocolate crepe batter

Remove the chilled batter and whisk briefly.  Place a small crepe pan or non-stick skillet (approximately 8 inches in diameter) over medium-high heat and spray with vegetable oil.  Once hot, pour ¼ cup of batter into the pan, and quickly swirl to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin, even layer (if you’ve never made a crepe before, check out this video).  After two minutes, use a spatula to lift up the crepe and flip. Cook the opposite side for one more minute.  Remove from pan and cool.  The edges of the crepe will be crispy and the center should be moist.  Repeat the process until the batter is gone.  Pile the crepes one on top of another on a plate.  When the batter is gone, cover the pile of crepes with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

To Make the Browned Butter: Place the desired amount of butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and let come to a boil.  Cook, stirring occasionally to keep distribute the heat evenly, until the butter starts to turn light brown. Remove from heat immediately and set aside. Cool for 5 minutes and use immediately.

butter on the verge of browning

Orange Pastry Crème

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup sugar
5 tbsps cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Combine the milk, orange juice and orange zest in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.  Remove from heat as soon as small bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, and whisk in the egg yolks.  The mixture will seem very dry. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes moist and the yolks turn pale yellow (1-2 minutes).

Slowly add a quarter of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling.  Then pour the remainder of the milk into the mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined.  When the milk is well incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming.  Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes very thick and bubbles start popping from the center of the pan for at least 20 seconds.  The mixture needs to come to a boil in order to activate the cornstarch.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until it melts and the mixture is smooth.  Pour the pastry cream into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Just before assembling the cake, whisk the pastry crème for one minute.  In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold in one quarter of the whipped cream just until combined.  Then fold in the remaining whipped cream until well combined and there are no more white streaks.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Place chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl and set aside.

Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and pour hot cream over chocolate. Let stand for 3-4 minutes. Whisk, beginning in the center of the bowl and moving toward the perimeter of the bowl, until the cream and chocolate are completely combined and the mixture is smooth.  Set aside and let cool completely.

Assembling the Cake

Remove the chilled crepes and pastry crème from the refrigerator.

Place one crepe on a plate and top with approximately ¼ cup and 1 tsp of pastry crème. Use an offset spatula to spread crème into a thin even layer, leaving a one inch border on the crepe.  Repeat until pastry crème is gone, ending with a crepe on top.

Carefully pour spoonfuls of the chocolate ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides and into the layers of the cake. Decorate as desired.

Chocolate crepe cake

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Irish car bomb cupcake

I’ve been doing some recipe testing for a certain special event that’s happening in a couple of weeks and thought I’d share a recipe that I’ve spent some time perfecting – Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes.

For those of you that don’t know, the name of this drink refers to its Irish ingredients – Guinness Stout, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey.  The whiskey is floated on top of the Irish cream in a shot glass and the shot glass is dropped into a half pint of stout that has to be drunk right away, before the ingredients curdle.  The controversial name refers to the many car bombings that took place during The Toubles in Ireland.

Similar to the drink, the components of an Irish Car Bomb Cupcake include a Guinness Stout Chocolate Cake, Bailey’s Irish Cream Filling and a Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache infused with Irish Whiskey (Jameson, in this case).

I love how moist these cupcakes are and I find that the batter rises evenly and at just the right height.  The Bailey’s Irish Cream filling is very sweet and perfect in small doses, which makes it a great filling for this cupcake.  The smooth  ganache icing is a refreshing change from the towering swirl of buttery frosting that tops most cupcakes.

Whether you enjoy the occasional Irish Car Bomb or  not, you’ll definitely like these cupcakes.

Cheers!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Stout Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons of milk
4-5 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream

For the Ganache Topping
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Jameson (or other Irish Whiskey)

To Make the Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line 24 cupcake cups with liners and set pans aside.

Combine 1 cup Guinness Stout and 1 cup butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is completely smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly (about 10 minutes).

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream to blend. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just until combined. Slowly add flour mixture on slow speed just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 of the way. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back, about 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven and cool in pan for one minute.  Remove cupcakes from pan and place on a rack to cool completely.

To Make the Bailey’s Irish Cream Filling
Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer for three minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until all of the sugar has been added. The mixture will be very dry. Add the milk and beat on low speed to reach desired consistency.  With the mixer on low, add the Bailey’s Irish Cream a tablespoon at a time until combined.

To Make the Whiskey Ganache
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it begins to simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then starting in the middle of the mixture working your way to the outside, stir with a whisk until completely smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Set aside to cool slight (about 20 minutes).  The ganache should begin to thicken, but still be soft enough to dip the cupcakes in.

Putting the Cupcakes Together
Using a serrated knife held at a 45 degree angle to the cupcake, core out a large portion of the center of your cupcake. For a guide to coring cupcakes, click here. You can also use a cupcake corer tool, like this. Save the cupcake cores you cut out. You will need a portion of it to place back on top of the filling.  Using a piping bag or ziplock bag with the tip cut off to pipe approximately 1 tablespoon of frosting into each cupcake.  Cut of the top portion of each cored cake piece, and place it on top of the filling, so the top of each cupcake sits flush and looks undisturbed.  Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Dip each cupcake into the bowl of cooled ganache, slightly twisting your twist as you come up catch the ganache drizzle. For a guide to dipping cupcakes in ganache, click here. Top the cupcakes with leftover cake crumbs, or dot the tops of cupcakes with any leftover cream filling.

Irish car bomb cupcake

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Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake

When I asked Tom what he wanted me to make for his birthday, he didn’t skip a beat – Icebox Cake.  I was expecting a more complicated request like a chocolate peanut butter concoction, special cupcakes, a pie or some type of intricate cake.  I have to admit I was a little relieved that he wanted something so simple.

If you’re looking for an easy, flavorful dessert that requires minimal prep time and NO baking…this is the recipe for you.

I made this a personal size cake (for two) but you can build a classic 8-inch cake by doubling the ingredients and using 7 cookies in each layer (instead of three).

CHOCOLATE WAFER ICEBOX CAKE

Ingredients
3 cups heavy cream
2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 box famous chocolate wafer cookies, from Nabisco

Directions
Combine cream, sugar and vanilla in stand mixer and whip until cream forms stiff peaks.  Do not over beat.  Take three wafer cookies and line them in a circle on a plate.

Cookie cake base

Add a dollop of whip cream and and spread it over the cookies in a thin layer.  Repeat, adding layers of cookies and whipped cream, ending with whipped cream on top.  Garnish with wafer cookie crumbs (optional).  Enjoy!

Slice of Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake

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Chocolate Cookies n' Creme Cupcakes

Happy Sweet Treat Tuesday!

These cupcakes are the perfect combination of chocolate and cookies.

Classic Cookies n’ Crème Cupcakes have a vanilla cake base.  As a big chocolate fan, I love the extra burst of cocoa in these cupcakes.

Pour yourself a big glass of ice cold milk and enjoy!

Crème Icing
1 lb (16 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the cheese and butter in a large bowl until softened.  Add sifted sugar one cup at a time and mix on low speed until combined.  Increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.  Bring speed back down to low and add vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Cover and refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, or until ready to use.

Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsps baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped Oreos (keep the chunks big!)
20 Oreos

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Stir in oil, water, vinegar and vanilla and mix until blended.  Carefully fold in Oreo chunks.  Fill muffin pans 3/4 of the way full and bake cupcakes for 22-23 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a rack.  Cool completely.

Place 5-7 Oreos in a food processor and pulse to create fine Oreo crumbs.  Set aside.

(more…)

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